FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
HOLCROFT, Anthony (1932- ), writer of children's fiction, was born in Christchurch, son of M.H. Holcroft, and educated at Southland BHS and Canterbury University. He taught at rural schools, worked on farms and now, while also writing, runs an orchard near Rangiora. His masterly short stories take their structure from traditional folklore and reflect his fascination with energies or spirits in the landscape, often of New Zealand. In practical yet poetic and mystical ways they embody three recurring themes: the need for conservation, the destructive nature of greed and the redeeming power of love. Picture books include The Old Man and the Cat (1984) and The Oldest Garden in China (1985), both illustrated by Fifi Colston, Rosie Moonshine (1989) and Chen-Li and the River Spirit (1990), both illustrated by Lyn Kriegler (1990). Chen-Li and the River Spirit first appeared in Cricket, an American childrens magazine, where it won the International Reading Association Paul A. Witty Award in 1991. Holcroft also won the Choysa Bursary for 1986. Collections of his stories, many originally published in international magazines, anthologies and on radio, are: Tales of the Mist (1987), illustrated by Elspeth Williamson; The Boy at the Door and Other Stories of the Supernatural (1991), illustrated by Julian Holcroft; The White Bird (1995); and The Night Bees (1995), illustrated by Timothy Ide.
Holcroft's short story collection The Stone Boat was released by Tarn Publishing in 2004. It was reviewed in BRAT: Winter 2005, 'Holcroft’s writing is inventive and dark, and each tale intrigues from the outset, the reader confident that they will be lead to a place worth arriving at. Their mood lingers – in part because of the accomplished writing but also due to their open-ended nature. Holcroft sees the attraction of the unknown and is unafraid to leave things at that. A stylish production, lovingly designed, that provides excellent material for reading aloud to an older child.'
A Visit to the Orchards of Heaven (Hazard Press, 1998) is a collection of children's stories. It was reviewed in The Journal of the Children's Book Council of Australia, 'Anthony Holcroft is one of very few New Zealand writers to win an international award for his writing. This book gives ample evidence for justifying his high standing. It is simply superb... These are tales to be read aloud. All the finesse of the folktale is distilled in these stories where the structural patterns of stories told are to be found; where the archetypal battle of good versus evil is played; where fairy helpers reward the folk; where dance and music can tempt the foolhardy into faire land; where tricksters and fools and villians get their comeuppance (even if they are kings) and where innocence is asserted despite the villainy of the world... Highly recommended.'
Anthony Holcroft's The Ghost Tree and Other Eerie Tales was published by Penguin NZ in 2009 and is illustrated by Lyn Kriegler. It was reviewed by Karen Cook in Magpies Magazine November 2009, 'Drawing on varied cultural vocabularies of Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Arabian Nights, Celtic folklore and Hans Christian Anderson, he has crafted tales that would delight as spooky read-alouds. His characters tread the uncomfortable boundaries between reality and faerie, safety and danger, self-control and temptation allowing the reader to dip their toes on the other side - if only for a while.'
The Old Man and the Cat (Penguin NZ, 2012) is illustrated by Leah Palmer Preiss.
In 2022, Holcroft's historical fantasy novel for young adult readers,The Candle Trees, was released by Quentin Wilson Publishing.